Three-Day Dialogue Yields Preliminary Recommendations for Archdiocese’s Clusters
By JOHN WOODS

The Making All Things New pastoral planning process took another step forward last week as a three-day dialogue resulted in preliminary recommendations being made for each of the 75 clusters of parishes in the archdiocese.

The meetings, held March 25-27 at Maryknoll in Ossining, featured discussions between members of the 40-person Archdiocesan Advisory Group, made up of a wide cross section of priests, deacons, religious and lay people from across the archdiocese, and representatives of the six pastoral areas of the archdiocese, each comprised of approximately 60 parishes.

“A dialogue has been engaged between the clusters and the Advisory Group, which was appointed by the cardinal,” said John Reid, a principal of the Reid Group, which is serving as a consultant to the archdiocese on Making All Things New.

“The clusters offered their best thinking, when they made their suggestions about the future,” Reid said. “Now the Advisory Group is responding to that by offering their best thinking based on what they know right now.”

All voting was done by Advisory Group members. They were asked to support the suggestions of the cluster teams, oppose them or abstain from voting. Abstentions took place when voting would have presented a conflict of interest, such as in the case of a pastor being asked to vote on a parish in his own cluster.

The preliminary recommendations were not revealed to the public, as the cluster teams are soon to enter a period, from mid-April to the beginning of June, during which they will review the recommendations before affirming, amending or offering a new suggestion to the Advisory Group for the future of their parishes and the ministries therein.

“We’re in a dialogue period between the clusters and the advisory board. They have to be able to speak freely and openly, ” archdiocesan spokesman Joe Zwilling told CNY last week.

The three full-day meetings consisted of various large group and smaller group sessions, beginning after daily Mass. Auxiliary Bishop Gerald T. Walsh, vicar general, set “a wonderful tone” in remarks at the morning liturgy on the first day when he spoke of the “sacred work” being undertaken in a “sacred place” at a “sacred time” in the archdiocese’s history, according to Reid.

“We echoed that back many times,” said Reid in a phone interview on Monday afternoon.

Reid and other consultants from his company served as facilitators to keep the meeting on track “and to help the advisory group and others achieve the goals.” Also at the meetings last week were members of an Archdiocesan Working Group and various experts in religious education, Catholic schools and finances that offered assistance as needed.

The conversations expressed an understanding and sensitivity to the archdiocese’s “unique” nature, not only in terms of size, but also geographic and ethnic diversity.

“The cultural nuances were part of the conversation,” Reid said. “It made it so real. It was personalized to each cluster.”

Reid, whose company has worked on similar planning projects with some 15 other dioceses, though none the size and breadth of New York, said the meeting at Maryknoll was “more productive than I expected.”

“It was a remarkable experience of faith, of people really thinking together about the Church in the Archdiocese of New York,” he explained.

The issuance of the preliminary recommendations was the third leg of an eight-step process. The Advisory Group will again meet at Maryknoll in late June, this time for two days, when it will review the revised suggestions of the cluster teams in preparation for making their final recommendations to Cardinal Dolan in July.

“We’re right on track with the schedule,” Reid said. “The timeline hasn’t changed.”

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